How to Praise Good Performance

Cover of

Cover of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Opportunities to change perspective and build a more positive organization requires hard work in scouring published materials for the latest research.

I am reading a book called, Mindset by Carol Dweck (psychologist).  Dr. Dweck identifies a couple of different mindsets that people have – fixed and growth.  She believes that if we have a fixed mindset that we are not open to feedback.  If feedback is a description of someone’s value, they may not seek feedback.  Negative feedback to a fixed mindset is a horror movie in real life.

Dr. Dweck and Dr. Claudia Mueller conducted an experiment with a group of children.  Children were complimented on ability and effort.  Those that were complemented on ability (You are so smart) were found to seek easier problems, quit sooner and overall . . . performed worse.  Conversely, those children that were complimented on effort were found to seek harder problems, perservere and perform better.

So why did children perform worse when complimented on ability?  Basically, it is because when you succeed because you are smart . . . then when you fail, you are dumb.  Persistence in a difficult task risks being labeled dumb.  Who wants that?

Praise for ability in adults works the same way according to research done by Ryan and Robert Quinn in their book, Lift. When you praise adults for their ability, they believe their ability is fixed.  Executives and workers alike may become afraid of feedback for fear of failure.  Entire organizations may get caught up in their successes and avoid negative feedback.  That is, until it is too late.

Finding ways to view your organization in a different light sometimes requires negative feedback that executives don’t want to hear.  Fear of failure can be costly.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance and enable workers to build and refine their service.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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